Tag Archives: joy

Celebrating the Wrong Birthday

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The other day was my son’s birthday. It was a wonderful day to remember the years and how he has grown so much. I’m very proud of him.

I remember when he was born. I remember so many of his “firsts” as he learned and experienced new things. He has made me proud, so why wouldn’t I celebrate his birth?

Or culture makes a really big deal out of birthdays. It is easy for parents to get caught in a trap of having to outdo last year’s party so as not to disappoint. Birthday parties become more and more expensive each year, and that’s not even regarding the presents.

It seems like every day I have a whole list of friends who are celebrating their birthday. The funny thing is, however, these celebrations are a relatively new concept for “normal” folk.

Birthday celebrations have their origin in paganism as people believed evil spirits would visit a person on the day of their birth each year, so they would surround themselves with people who were jolly in order to keep the spirits at bay. The ones who celebrated birthdays for the sake of celebration were usually noblemen or kings with the money to celebrate with much pomp.

Birthday celebrations are much fun, and I enjoy them each time they come around, but is this the biggest event we should celebrate in our lives each year?

Maybe we are celebrating the wrong event.

In Luke 15:10, Jesus says these words, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

When you come to Jesus the angels throw a party in heaven!

Maybe we should take a cue from the angels. When a person is baptized, maybe we should throw a party. Then, maybe we should be celebrating that new birth each year.

Do you remember the day you came to Christ? My physical birthday is coming up in June, but my spiritual birthday – the day my sins were washed away and I received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) – is September 8. That’s the day the angels threw a party for me.

When is your spiritual birthday? If you haven’t had it yet, the angels are waiting to throw a party for you.


Ignoring the Guest of Honor

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Imagine yourself at a party. You were invited, and you like the people who are there. However, it is late in the party and no one has spoken one word to you. You have tried to initiate conversations to no avail. When you speak it is as if your words dissolve before they leave your mouth. You are a ghost at the party though you are as real as everyone else there.

Have you ever been ignored? The feeling is very frustrating. There is a significant amount of disrespect that is shown when a person is ignored.

I say “Hi!” to people all the time. It’s just in my nature to do so. Most of the time the other person will smile and say it back. Sometimes they will merely smile, but it is those times when the person, who clearly saw me, simply walks by without acknowledging my existence that stick in my mind. I want to stop them and find out why they felt justified to ignore me, but I just let them keep walking. Ultimately it is no big deal for a stranger to ignore me. The times it hurts are when it is someone I love that does the ignoring.

I wonder if the Spirit feels that way. We invited Him into our lives when we were baptized (Acts 2:38) yet we ignore His existence for the most part. How much time do you spend thinking and focusing on Jesus and God compared to the Spirit. There’s a party inside your soul, but the one who lives inside you is often ignored.

It’s pretty obvious to see who is ignoring this guest of honor. Paul noticed it when he wrote to the Galatians church. He asked them, “What happened to all your joy?” (Galatians 4:15)

I know so many people who want to be happy in this life. They try all they can to pursue it. They put forth much effort and a good amount of their concentration to find it. They try and try to get rid of the sin in their life in hopes that it will bring the happiness they desire. People are literally dying to find happiness, yet it is a temporary feeling.

Have you ever seen someone with happiness in the moment but no joy in their life? I see it all the time. Maybe it is you. One of the fruits of the Spirit, whom we often ignore, is joy. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I really want. It is joy that will see you through any circumstance that befalls you. Joy is eternal – happiness is temporary.

So, where’s your joy? Are you living in the Spirit in such a way that there is true joy in your life? Have you been ignoring the guest of honor in your life? If you’ve been baptized, then the Spirit is in you and wants to guide you to the life you’ve always deeply wanted.

Want to know more? Let’s talk. I’d love to study more about this with you. God bless you as you allow more and more of your life to be centered in the Spirit.


Right In Front Of Our Faces

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Yesterday I took a break from office work and meetings to give my son an opportunity he’s never had before. I took him to get a ski lesson at a local ski run. He’s six, and he’s never been on a set of skis before. In fact, until last month, he’d never even seen much skiing.

He did great. In a matter of three hours he could ski down the green runs. He still falls a few times down the hill, but for his first day he was fantastic. I hope that he loves to ski like I do. It is my prayer that he can enjoy this and many other wonderful hobbies that take advantage of the magnificence of God’s creation around us.

A I think about our experience, however, I can’t help but think of the people I’ve met in the various places I’ve lived that have never experienced many of the wonders outside of the town where they live. The are many people in this area that have never skied. When I lived outside Sequoia National Park in California I met several people who had never seen the big trees.

I love taking people to new places and showing them things they have never seen before. To me it is a way to help them experience the love of God in a new way. God made all of creation and then gave it to mankind to take care of and rule over. Some things can only be explained as God giving them to us for us to simply say, “wow”!

These people who don’t explore much outside the comfort zone of their towns or neighborhood remind me of most of the rest of us. We have been given a life to live, and we have been charged with being good stewards of this life, but we seem content to do the same things week after week and never try anything new.

We are called to use our spiritual gifts to serve God. but many people I know can’t even tell me what their spiritual gifts are. Do you know what yours are?

One of the best way to find out what our spiritual gifts are is to try new things. Are you good at visiting the sick? You’ll never know until you try. Are you good at telling strangers the great news of Jesus’ salvation? Practicing this art is a great way to find out. We have a life that we have been given, but many of us are only living a shadow of that life because we are too afraid to try to find out what spiritual gifts we’ve been given.

When you find some way to serve God that brings you great joy then you’ll have found one of your many talents.

I want to encourage you this year to find out what God has created you to do. Maybe you’ll run a company in a way that shares the messages of grace and love with its employees and customers. Maybe you’ll find that giving to the church or other ministries brings you joy. Maybe you’ll take a trip to another country to do mission work only to find that you were ministered to even more. Maybe you’ll teach a class or say a prayer or sing a song. Whatever you do, you’ll be taking steps to finding the purpose God has created you for.

May you find out the life God has purposed for you. May the kingdom of God grow because of your newfound fervor. And may you be blessed richly because you got out of your comfort zone to try something new.

God bless you. If there’s anything you’d like to discuss concerning this or any other topic, feel free to contact me at 505-334-6626 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net.


“I Love Funerals” said no one ever.

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Let’s do an experiment. Please take a moment to frown. I mean really frown. Are you ready? No smirking!

Now that you are sufficiently frowning, read these words out loud:

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”
“Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee opening to the Son of love. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness…”

You may or may not recognize these church songs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the blessing of being able to lead groups in singing these words. However, what I find is that for many Christians these are hollow statements.

One of my favorite games with my kids involves reverse psychology. My kids will be frowning, and I’ll tell them “don’t you smile!” Try as they might they strain as they work to try to keep the corners of their mouths from curving upward. I’m laughing the whole time which doesn’t help. Finally, they can hold it no longer, and they bust forth in full fledged laughter as they smile in defiance of my rule. They can’t help it. The smile just happens. By the way, this even works on them when they really are upset.

Back to church.

Sunday after Sunday Christians gather in man-made sanctuaries across the world and “celebrate” the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We sing songs of praise to God for what He has done for and through us. We worship Him for how awesome He is. But for so many people this is merely a description of what is supposed to happen.

Have you ever gone to a church service that seemed more like a funeral than a celebration? Do you know Christians that are more critical and grumpy than others you know? Are you able to be described as grumpy?

David, the man after God’s own heart, was sad that the presence of the Lord wasn’t in the capitol of Jerusalem. However, when the ark of the covenant, above which the presence of the Lord resided, came into the city David couldn’t control himself.

He threw a party! There were sacrifices aplenty to Jehovah God. There was music all over the place, and there was dancing. But no dancing was as significant as the dancing David did himself. He tore off his clothes down to his underwear. (By the way, he is the king of Israel at this time) Then he danced before the Lord all through the streets. He couldn’t keep it in. He was so happy! He was rejoicing that God was back in Israel once again. God’s presence was near.

Later that day, his wife, Michal, came to him and chastised him. She talked about how undignified it was for the king to dance naked in the streets. I mean, what would the slave girls think? Would they respect a king who behaved in such a way?

I love David’s response. “I will be even more undignified before the Lord!”

When we have joy then there is a natural outward expression of that joy. You can’t have joy and hold it in. You can hold in happiness, but joy is much deeper than happiness. Joy is a state of being.

I Peter 1:8-9 says this:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

If you have been saved by the grace of God then you have reason for joy! In fact, the inexpressible joy mentioned here isn’t a joy that is quiet or held in. It is a joy that is so overwhelming it can’t be measured. Have you ever seen someone like that? Have you ever seen a person who has lived a life of bondage to sin celebrate because of their newfound liberation in the salvation through Christ? I have seen it, and it is inexpressible and glorious.

As we grow comfortable in our faith, though, that joy begins to wane. We don’t stay in practice of giving all out glory and praise and worship to God. Many churches shush people who are worshipping with total abandon. This should not be!

Sunday morning isn’t a funeral, it’s a celebration! The God of the universe made a great sacrifice and overcame the power of death and sin in your life and mine. We have been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus! We don’t have to worry about sin any more! We are eternal beings! We have the Spirit of God! These are all things to celebrate!

So, the next time you sing one of the songs mentioned at the beginning of this article, please don’t just smile, sing it out. Don’t worry about what others think. It’s about God. If they’re not willing to act in joy then that’s their decision, but don’t let it stop you.

Joy is a noun that has many verbs. Don’t hold it in. When the world around you sees the joy overflowing from you they will want what you have too. Then we’ll be able to tell them, and they can become filled with inexpressible and glorious joy.

If you want that joy, then I’d love to help you seek it. Feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or on my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you celebrate Him!


Astounded by Darkness: Caving through Life

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Have you ever been in a cave? Not the tourist trap, sidewalk lined, electronically lit kind of cave; a real, native cave – the kind with headlamps and helmets and bats and mud and darkness…true darkness?

When I was in college, I was a member of a grotto (read: caving club). One beautiful North Arkansas evening we went to a native cave for some fun and exploration of God’s majestic underground creation. The entrance to this cave was at the back of a pond and the stream from the cave was that pond’s water source.

The entrance tunnel was low, so we were duck-walking while wading ankle deep in this stream. About a hundred feet into the cave we startled a group of bats. These were small like flying mice (without tails), and they were everywhere, even landing on my helmet. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but that’s not the part of this trip I want to tell you about.

When we got back in a ways, we decided to do some alone time in the cave and meet back together after a short time. I crawled along through the wet tunnels, gloved hands coated in mud, until I found a place I could sit in silence…alone. Then I did it…I turned off my light, and it was dark. Not the nighttime in the country with no moon dark – real dark. This was the darkness you can only experience underground – a subterranean darkness in which, try as you might you can’t see even your hand waving frantically six inches in front of your face. I know…I tried.

If you’ve never been in this kind of cave, it’s hard to imagine this literal kind of darkness, but maybe you CAN understand this figuratively.

As I go through life, I notice that I have to pay close attention to the perspective with which I view the world around me. If I see with a positive attitude, the world just seems to light up, but when I’m pessimistic, darkness reigns. Have you ever been there?

Back to my story…

After a few minutes, I turned my headlamp back on and decided to do a little more exploring before heading back to the rendezvous point. The tunnels were like Swiss cheese with each one connecting to the others so there shouldn’t have been a problem with me getting back.

My eyes were now accustomed to this dim light, this quasi-darkness, this twilight, so I thought I could see well enough. I crawled along at a quick pace, trying to see as much of the cave as I could before time was up, so I was looking straight ahead as I crawled. I let my hands “see” the floor. This is typical for being in darkness – using multiple senses to make up for the deficiency in one of the senses.

Up ahead, I saw a room that opened up, and I got excited. I thought it was a place I could go back and tell my crew about so they could come explore with me. What I didn’t realize was it was a room we had been in already, but that wasn’t the worst part. I didn’t stop crawling until I felt my fingers curl down. Remember, I’m “seeing” the ground with my hands. Suddenly, I stopped, heart racing, realizing I wasn’t on the floor of that room. I was actually on a small ledge about 30 feet above the floor. If I had kept crawling, even one more step, I would have gone headfirst into a painful fall that probably would have killed me. Close call.

What’s this have to do with life?

This event reminds me of what Jesus says in the bible about light and dark.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your while body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
— Matthew 6:22-23

He’s not talking about a literal light in our eyes. He’s talking about our perspective. My perspective in the cave was full of darkness, and it almost cost me my life. I was clicking along thinking I was safe, but I was in terrible danger all along and just didn’t know it.

When we have a pessimistic outlook, we see the darkness in the world, and have a fixation with that darkness. We can see the worst in any situation. How does that make us feel? The darkness consumes us. It’s not pleasant, and it can seriously danger your life. From relationships in family to friends to work, any relationship…even that with your very self can be killed when darkness is in our eyes.

BUT when we have the light in our eyes, we can see the good in circumstances. I have known many people with this attitude, and I want to be around them as much as possible…maybe it might rub off on me. When you fix your eyes on what is good, everything can be bright..even family strife and layoffs and church trouble.

Perspective is a choice. We get to choose how we look at the world, and our past definitely influences which view we take…but it is not our jailer. We can choose to see with light in our eyes even when our past has been dark.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have light in my eyes. I want others to see it in my eyes, and most of all I want to glorify God with the light in my eyes. What about you?

When we got out of the cave that night, it was about 10 pm. The sky was clear, and because we had spent so much time in the darkness, when we started looking for the lights in the sky, they astounded us. We were truly attracted to those lights. I have never been able to see so many stars in all my life because I had been in the dark so long.

As you start this journey from darkness into light, you may not be the brightest light at first, but you will grow, and you will find that people are attracted to the light that shines in you…even the smallest bit of light.

May you be full of light, and may God shine through you! If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know at jddobbs@Verizon.net or call me at 245-1611.

God bless you all!

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The Voices Inside My Head

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I’m exhausted. My family and I just got back from a 3,000 mile round-trip excursion to Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, back to Tennessee, then Missouri, back to Arkansas, then finally back to Texas. We got to see family and friends we haven’t gotten to see in a while. We got to visit with a couple of my former students – one of whom got back in January from Afghanistan. I also got to go to a marvelous Youth Ministry Conference while in Louisville. It was a time of refreshing as I gathered with 3,000 other youth ministers from around the country to get refueled for ministry.

As I was there breathing out the stressors and worries of life and breathing in the words of God I recognized just how many voices speak into our lives.

What voices speak to you each day? Someone this weekend said that the four hardest jobs in the world are politicians, coaches, teachers, and ministers. They are the jobs where everyone else thinks they can do a better job than you can, and they frequently tell you so in no uncertain terms. What voices speak to you?

Maybe your voices come from outside influences. Maybe your family tells you something about yourself. Maybe it’s your friends or co-workers. Maybe it’s media that are significant sources of the voices that convince you of certain “truths” about yourself and the world around you.

I heard a news piece just last night talking about how even the continual images of the “perfect” women in all the visible roles in media influence our young women to think that they must also look that way. There was one story of the little girl in the beauty pageant, and when she didn’t win, she asked her mom “does this mean I’m not pretty?”

These outside voices can be brutal. Perhaps they tell you that you aren’t pretty enough or smart enough or that you don’t work hard enough. Maybe they tell you that you don’t fit in.

These voices, however, are not as potent as the voices in our own heads. I’m not talking about the schizophrenic voices where we talk to ourselves out loud. I’m talking about the subtle whispers in our minds that try to define us.

“You’re a failure as a mother or father.” “You may as well give up.” “No one really cares about you.” “You have nothing of value to contribute to society.” “You’ll never be the spouse you need to be.” “It’s ok if you do that; no one will be affected by your actions.”

As we go on in our lives these voices can easily morph from whispers to shouts as we feed in to their influence on our lives. When we start believing these things they cripple our ability for forward momentum.

I’ve seen the skits where a person stands in front of the mirror and says out loud to him or herself “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” In every skit they say it with enthusiasm, but their eyes reveal the truth that they don’t really believe what they are saying.

Many of these voices keep the dark places of our lives close by so that we don’t allow God to take over those places and eradicate the darkness. The voices keep us captive. They cripple us in our potential.

God is desperately desiring to speak a different message into your life. He wants to remind you that you are His MASTERPIECE (Ephesians 2:10). He wants you to know that when you listen to Him he will help you have the best life possible (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28). He wants you to know that you are totally worth it.

Worth what? Worth His sacrifice on the cross. God thought and still thinks that you are totally worth sacrificing Himself so that you can live eternally with Him.

We listen to these voices because we desperately want to be accepted and liked by society around us. We are constantly trying to impress the world – the created world – while the whole time the God who created that world, the Master of all existence, is trying to tell us that we are His favorite, and he already likes us. He even loves us. I once heard Jon Acuff say that “God follows our Facebook, and he likes, likes, likes!”

That’s pretty good news isn’t it? Let me challenge you. Spend more time listening to what God says about you in His word than what society said about you or even than what Satan whispers in your head. If you do this it will be much easier to combat those voices. I propose that you will even have a much brighter outlook on life. “You are more than a conqueror through Christ.” “You have been given a spirit of power, love, and self discipline.” “God will never leave you nor forsake you.” These and so many other promises are found in scripture. And when we read these promises, we also need to remember that God cannot lie.

You are awesome! God made you the way you are, and he doesn’t make junk. Satan has been trying to remold you into his likeness since you were born. It’s time to allow God to reshape you back into the masterpiece he created you to be. That reshaping can only happen when we let the voice of God be more influential than the voices of this world.

I’m on this journey with you. External voices are constantly trying to tear me down. Join with me in becoming more dependent on the voice of God than the voices of all the “haters” – even the ones inside our heads. And may our lives change for the greater because of it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to call me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you!


Let Me Tell You All About It…

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If you’ve been around me in any way, shape, form or fashion the last few days, you know I completed the Tough Mudder. How do you know? Because I’ve probably told you all about my joys and fears and pain and excitement caused by enduring the 12 miles and 29 obstacles designed by British Special Forces guys.

I’m pretty excited about this accomplishment to put it mildly.

I’m not the only one. The entire team is flooding Facebook and the various places where we work and socialize with stories and pictures of our day in Edna last Saturday. It’s like we are compelled to tell the story. We overcame! We are excited! We’d love to tell you all about it!

Guess what. We have all overcome! We have all had the opportunity for God to wash away all our sins! Jesus has come and destroyed sin and death and fear and worry!

We talk about about who won the SuperBowl. We talk about what we did last weekend. We talk about the weather. We are compelled to talk. We talk with just about anybody, but how often does the message of the love of God shown through Christ come across our lips? Are we as excited about the message of redemption as we are about Dale Earnhardt’s number coming out of retirement?

Do we talk with our kids about the implications of a life filled with joy through salvation in Christ as much as we talk to them about the implications of sex before marriage?

Do we talk with our friends about freedom in Christ as much as we do about the weather or work or kids or…anything?

No wonder Christianity is not the fastest growing religion in the world. But what can we do about it?

First, it’s time for us to do some genuine soul searching about our relationship with Christ. Many people love Jesus but don’t tell anyone else about Him. Many people claim love for Jesus but don’t even bother to tell Him about it.

It’s as if I just got married, but I din’t wear a wedding ring. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t even live with my wife. But I still claimed my wife on my taxes.

We are supposed to be in a love relationship with Jesus. The church is called the “bride of Christ”. How many of us are married to Him but don’t want anyone to know it?

It may not be that you don’t want anyone to know it. Maybe you just don’t think about it. My question is why not? Maybe you don’t know what to say. When you’re excited about anything else you have no worry about what to say. You don’t even care if the other people want to hear what you have to say.

This is not something we are going to be able to force in ourselves. If we aren’t excited about Christ we won’t be able to “fake it till we make it”. We need to commit to true searching for Christ in our lives and in the scriptures. We need to be committed once again to prayer and fasting. For some of you it may mean beginning that relationship with Christ by accepting Him as your Savior and connecting with Him through baptism.

Let’s start this journey today. The destination is totally worth the search.

May you deeply seek Christ in your life this year. May prayer and fasting be a regular part of your life. And may the world see Christianity grow once again out of newfound love for the God who loved us first.

If you have any questions or comments about this or would like to know more about making Jesus your Savior, please contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 979-245-1611.

God bless your search and newfound joy in Christ!


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